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Debt and Taxes: Fiscal Issues Loom Over 113th Congress


By: Chris Vest

Summary: As a new Congress convenes, the legislative agenda is likely to be dominated by the debt limit and tax reform.

With control of the 113th Congress largely unchanged by the 2012 elections, the Republican-led House and Democratic-run Senate are busy setting legislative agendas and deciphering what messages voters were sending to lawmakers on taxes and other issues last fall.

Leaders from both sides of the aisle have talked about tax reform as a major goal for 2013. Democrats and Republicans were worlds apart last year on the issue of top tax rates and tax increases for wealthier Americans, among other concerns, and the early weeks of the new Congress may reveal how willing party leaders are to work together on tax issues.

While Congress spent the lame-duck session focused on avoiding the "fiscal cliff," lawmakers are now confronted with a daunting debt-limit deadline in the first quarter of 2013. Analysts expect the Treasury Department to run out of emergency funds to stave off a default in late February, setting up another ominous deadline for a Congress plagued by deep divisions over government spending.

Beyond the debt-limit fight, the government is set to run out of money for all programs at the end of March. After passing a six-month spending bill last October, Congress will need to pass another continuing resolution to fund federal agencies through the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

While associations and other business sectors continue to analyze committee assignments and the big-picture legislative priorities for both parties, it's clear that these fiscal issues will take center stage as this Congress gets underway.

Chris Vest is director of public policy at ASAE. Email:

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